Luis Benitez stands among the world's foremost high altitude mountaineers. On May 21, 2007, Luis achieved his sixth summit of Mt. Everest. In 2004, Benitez claimed the world's (non-Sherpa) record for most consecutive summits of Everest: four in four years - - an amazing achievement, because in any given year, fewer than 20% of the hundreds of climbers who attempt Everest actually summit the mountain. (Since Sir Edmund Hillary's historic first summit in 1953, only about 10,000 people even attempted to climb the mountain. Of them, about 1400 individuals have succeeded in reaching the summit and more than 200 have died trying.)
Benitez also guided blind climber Erik Weihenmayer to his historic 2001 Everest summit, chronicled in the feature film "Farther Than The Eye Can See” and also in Erik’s book “Touch the Top of the World”. In 1999, Benitez was the first American to attempt an ascent of Mt. Gangapurna (24,457 ft) in Nepal's Annapurna Region of the Himalayas. He has reached the top of six of the famed "Seven Summits" a cumulative 32 times.HIGH ALTITUDE LEADER and GUIDE
Over the last decade, as the ranks of high altitude mountaineering fill with capable amateur climbers pursuing their personal adventure dreams, Benitez has quietly emerged as one of the most experienced, respected and busiest professional guides and business consultants in the world, leading expeditions and seminars year-round to the tallest, most treacherous peaks on the planet. Guiding is a unique profession, one that requires equal measures of caution and courage. Especially since 1996, when bad weather and poor judgment tragically collided on Everest, commercial expedition guides are becoming more crucial to the safety and success of this increasingly popular sport. Yet, the profession is so dangerous, as well as so mentally and physically demanding, there are fewer than a hundred expert practitioners in the world. Most are a decade or more, older than Benitez.
Traveling so high that even a helicopter rescue cannot be attempted, Benitez, a certified wilderness EMT, is also responsible for providing crisis medical aid. While there has never been a fatality on any of his own expeditions, Benitez has often risked his own life to save others. During a 2003 Everest expedition, a Sherpa climber from another team staggered into Benitez camp, suffering from severe dehydration and hypothermia. Without hesitation, after a long day of climbing, and with light fading, Benitez suspended his teams activities and organized a rescue attempt. Sadly, after a several hour struggle to carry him down through the hazardous Khumbu Icefall to medical attention at base camp, the Sherpa perished in his arms.
In addition to the physical and psychological demands of guiding, Benitez also oversees the reports, satellite transmissions and video webcasts - using advanced wireless high tech communications gear. He also writes frequent and often harrowing online dispatches from these remote locations. Web reports from his expeditions may be seen at: http://www.explorersweb.com and http://www.adventureconsultants.co.nz.
Benitez has also conducted an annual leadership and personal growth through mountaineering seminar in Ecuador for the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. The course is so popular that it has been wait-listed for each of the last four years. He is also a mountaineering correspondent for "The ESPN Colorado Outdoor Show" In addition to "Farther Than the Eye Can See" (2003), he has been featured in films such as "Visions of Everest" (2002) and "Shadow of the Condor" (2002). In 2006, Benitez reported from Mt. Everest for ABC-TV News and filmed a segment for an episode of National Geographic's weekly TV series "Wild Chronicles," which will air later this year on PBS.
THE BOY IN THE BUBBLE- Overcoming Challenges
Diagnosed with severe asthma as an infant, Luis Benitez spent his entire childhood in the protective isolation of his home, shielded from the airborne allergens that might kill him. How he overcame his respiratory system's betrayal to become one of high altitude mountaineering's leading professionals is an inspiring story of survival, determination, commitment and discipline, as well as a huge leap of faith: incredibly, his exposure to high altitudes very thin air has helped Benitez meet asthma's persistent challenge.
Born in the midwest, in 1972; his mother Italian/American; his father, an immigrant from Ecuador, Benitez was barely two months old when he experienced his first asthma attack. A pale, wheezy and sickly boy, his childhood was marred by seclusion and fear, a parade of doctors, painful medical tests, oxygen tents, emergency room visits and a rigorous course of powerful drugs.
Literally a boy in the bubble, locked away indoors, Benitez spent his early childhood buried in his pain-free imagination, where he fantasized about the world outside, especially the world he observed on the pages of National Geographic magazines.
Spending his adolescent summers with his fathers family in South America, Benitez began trekking in the Andes Mountains. His first official summit: Mt. Cotopaxi (19,350 ft) in Ecuador. He was 16 years old. Hurling and dizzy, he summitted at sunrise, as lightning flashed over the jungle below. He was hooked.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
In 1992, Benitez was hired by the prestigious Outward Bound Schools in Colorado. He initially conducted courses in mountaineering, rock climbing and avalanche training, as well as teaching skiing, ice climbing and kayaking all with the fundamentals of leadership, communication, and problem solving at the core of the curricula. He has also established a similar program in South America for the organization. He maintains his position with Outward Bound Professional to this day, designing and leading domestic and international professional team building and Leadership development programs such as the Executive Leadership Expeditions. www.outwardboundpro.com/ELE
From 1998 until 2004, Benitez also guided for Seattle, Washington's Alpine Ascents International, another of the worlds most respected mountaineering expedition companies. During his six years with Alpine Ascents, Benitez organized and led multiple expeditions to scale the highest, most remote mountains on earth including six of the fabled Seven Summits - - the tallest peak on each of earths seven continents:
Asia: Mt. Everest (29,038 ft), Nepal/Tibet (six summits)
South America: Mt. Aconcagua (22,840 ft), Argentina (ten summits)
North America: Mt. Denali (20,320 ft), Alaska (two summits)
Africa: Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft),Tanzania/Kenya (six summits)
Europe: Mt. Elbrus (18,510 ft), Russia (eleven summits)
Antarctica: Vinson Massif (16,067 ft), (four summits)
If there is any message that Luis likes to leave with people and groups he works with, it is this, “never be afraid to go out and find your own Everest”.